Albany

Airbnb, ShareBetter With Dueling Ads

From the Morning Memo:

The ShareBetter coalition, backed by the hotel industry, aired an ad starting this week in New York City area linking higher rents to Airbnb.

Days later Airbnb began airing its own TV spot in the New York City media market taking City Comptroller Scott Stringer to task for his issuing a “misleading report” about its practices.

The ShareBetter spot is part of six-figure ad buy that will be on two-dozen or so different broadcast and cable networks as well as in social media and banner placement.

The ShareBetter ad and the anti-Stringer ad from Airbnb both seize on the report the comptroller’s office issued on the links between rent increases and Airbnb, and both, naturally reach different conclusions.

Along with the ShareBetter ad this week, New York Communities for Change is hosted a tele-town hall on Tuesday with Stringer and other elected officials, including Assemblyman Walter Mosely and Assemblywoman Carmen de la Rosa.

“Airbnb’s predatory housing schemes are robbing our communities of desperately needed affordable housing while forcing New Yorkers to pay $600 million more in rent,” said New York Communities for Change Executive Director Jonathan Westin. “We all know the rent is already too damn high and it’s time Airbnb stopped making it higher by refusing to follow our laws.”

Who Replaces Schneiderman? And How?

From the Morning Memo:

The swift downfall of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday evening — resigning within hours of a New Yorker story detailing allegations of physical abuse, drug and alcohol use — were followed virtually within the same breath of who would replace him.

In essence, the effort to replace Schneiderman will be on two separate tracks: The legislative and the ballot box.

Lawmakers last replaced a statewide official in 2007 when Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned. At the time, they turned to one of their own, Long Island Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, who remains in office today.

With a 100-plus member majority, the pick is likely to be largely up to the Democratic-led Assembly. Several calculations may be taking place: Will the Assembly pick a placeholder who would not run for post? Or would they find someone who wants to keep the job? Would the replacement be a liberal firebrand or someone who would draw a primary challenger in the mold of Cynthia Nixon? Will it be a state lawmaker? What role will labor unions with deep influence like the New York State United Teachers play? What about the New York City county chairs like Queens’s Joe Crowley will play?

Those variable aside, a range of names have surfaced within the last 12 hours of potential candidates who could run for attorney general, including former New York City Councilman Dan Garodnick, Sens. Michael Gianaris and Todd Kaminsky, New York City Public Advcoate Tish James, Cuomo counsel Alphonso David, ex-Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky, former gubernatorial and congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Among members of the Assembly alone, names include Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, Assemblyman Sean Ryan, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein.

Even some have floated Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who the governor has made little secret of wanting to run for the congressional seat held by Republican Rep. Chris Collins.

The last time the AG’s office was in 2010, when Andrew Cuomo left to run for governor. At the time, there was a crowded primary field to replace him, ranging from Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, attorney Sean Coffey, Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

Schneiderman, then a state senator, emerged as the victor after garnering support from the party’s liberal base.

The AG’s office has been a desirable one for any ambitious Democrat in New York given the office’s expansive powers, ability to garner favorable headlines and its clear stepping stone to becoming governor.

The likely primary for attorney general also throws another wrench into a political environment that includes an activist-based campaign from Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo for a third term this year. Given the circumstances of Schneiderman’s resignation, the power the office wields, the Democratic energy surrounding the election season and it’s a potentially unpredictable concoction for what happens next.

At the moment, the AG’s office is being filled on a temporary basis by the state’s solicitor general, Barbara Underwood.

Schneiderman Resigns Amid Abuse Allegations

Facing allegations of physical abuse and drug and alcohol misuse, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday night announced he would resign his office effective Tuesday.

The announcement came just three hours after The New Yorker posted a story online in which four women accused Schneiderman of abusive and erratic behavior.

In the statement, Schneiderman said he “strongly” contested the claims made against him, though in previous statement had suggested some of the allegations constituted “role play.”

“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as Attorney General for the people of the State of New York. In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me,” Schneiderman said in the statement.

“While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

The statement came after a growing barrage of calls, including from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, for Schneiderman to step aside. Cuomo also called for an investigation into some of the allegations made in The New Yorker.

Schneiderman, elected in 2010 out of the state senator, had increasingly been handed a national profile in part of his push against the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration as well as his public advocacy for women’s issues. Schneiderman had led a national effort of Democratic attorneys general to file legal challenges against Trump administration environmental and immigration policies.

Schneiderman is the latest state elected official to leave office in disgrace and his downfall, so swiftly, comes as he was considered a lock for a third term. Unlike Eliot Spitzer, felled by a prostitution scandal, Schneiderman enjoyed a solid reputation among his liberal base.

The Working Families Party, which last month endorsed his re-election, announced it could not continue to support him and called the allegations “credible.”

His replacement will now be up to the Legislature and, in effect, the 150-member Assembly to fill. A number of potential names have been floated in recent hours, including Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, the chairwoman of the Ways and Means committee, as well as Sens. Mike Gianaris and Todd Kaminsky.

Outside of the Legislature, former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout may consider running for the post, as could New York City Public Advocate Tish James.

At the moment, only one Republican has declared in the race, Manny Alicantro. That could change if the seat is considered open and potentially competitive.

Ailing Ex-Assembly Speaker Seeks Kidney

The wife of ailing former Assembly Speaker Mel Miller has launched a desperate campaign to find him an organ donor, saying he is suffering from end stage kidney disease and needs a transplant to save his life.

Elizabeth Miller blasted out an email appeal seeking a donor, blood type O, explaining:

“Mel has contributed much to others through his years of public service and now needs some help himself. He is working with Renewal, a remarkable non-profit organization. They have found an email campaign to be an effective technique, and it’s best to cast as wide a net as possible.”

“…All inquiries to Renewal are strictly confidential and are without any obligation,” Elizabeth Miller contiued. “They can also put you in touch with others who have donated a kidney and are willing to share their experience. All medical costs for evaluation and surgery are covered by the recipient’s insurance. Ancillary costs such as travel expenses and lodging, may be covered by Renewal.”

Elizabeth Miller asked recipients of her email to forward it on to their contacts in hopes of casting as wide a net as possible in her bid to save her husband’s life.

Mel Miller, 78, was once one of Albany’s most powerful elected officials – a member of the storied “three men in a room” who made all the state’s big decisions behind closed doors. But he fell from grace in 1991, when he was accused of cheating clients out of proceeds in the sale of eight cooperative apartments and convicted by a federal jury.

Since the law requires any member of the Legislature who is convicted of a felony to immediately lose his or her seat, Miller was immediately ejected from both his elected post and his speakership.

He was briefly replaced by Assemblyman Jim Tallon, the last upstater to hold the title of speaker, in an acting capacity- for a whopping three days – until members of the Democratic conference elected Queens Assemblyman Saul Weprin as their permanent leader.

Miller’s conviction was overturned on appeal by a unanimous vote of a federal appeals court in 1993. He became a lobbyist and was one of the founders of the firm Bolton-St. Johns. He joined a different firm, Park Strategies, as special counsel in 2008.

Lawmakers Vow To Push Forward Delinking Tests From Teacher Evals

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would scale back a key education reform from 2015, delinking state exams from the way teachers and principals in New York are evaluated.

“Kids test in different ways, they learn in different ways,” said Sen. Jim Tedisco, a Republican. “You cannot use a test as a holy grail to evaluate kids and teachers.”

It’s a reversal from only three years ago, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo muscled the evaluation law through the Legislature over the objections of the state’s politically powerful teachers unions.

“Absolutely they should reverse themselves,” Tedisco said. “They did a stupid thing and I’m glad they’re admitting it.”

In the Assembly, Democrats there say the bill delinking state tests from evaluations was done in consultation with Cuomo’s office itself.

“This isn’t a brand new idea coming from him,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat. “It’s all of us kind of learning that maybe we needed to pause and hit the reset. So, this shouldn’t be a surprise.”

Scaling back the teacher evaluation law is a key issue for the teachers unions, who have influence with lawmakers as well as Democratic voters. The teachers union’s political action committee was involved in last week’s special elections for the Assembly.

“NYSUT has been raising their concerns,” Heastie said. “So, we’ve been talking about this, I’d say, for a few months now.”

Assembly Democrats expect a vote on the bill in the coming weeks. For now, Republicans aren’t saying when a vote on their bill will come.

“There are a lot of things we’re looking at right now as far as discussions go,” said Sen. Cathy Young, a western New York Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. “I’m sure those discussions will continue and everything is on the table right now and we’ll be evaluating as we go forward.”

Lawmakers credited the movement to opt out of state tests by students to the change.

“We have been working with the Legislature and education community for months to address this issue and would like to reach a resolution this session, but it depends on the overall political environment,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.

End-Of-Life Advocacy Boosted By GOP Former Lawmaker

Former Assemblywoman Janet Duprey watched both her parents die, she said, very painful deaths.

Her father had mesothelioma, her mother suffered a series of strokes, asking to have her feeding tube taken out when at a nursing home.

“I don’t know if they would have chosen medical aid in dying,” Duprey said on Monday in Albany, “but I certainly feel like they had the right to choose and I certainly want to choose my own destiny.”

Duprey was among the advocates to be in Albany on Monday backing legislation that would legalize end-of-life options for the terminally ill. The measure has stalled in the Legislature over the years as entities ranging from the Catholic Church to advocates for the disabled have raised concerns with the bill.

Supporters of aid-in-dying insist the legislation has protections for those who considered the most vulnerable. Duprey, a Republican, said those built-in protections led her in part to support the bill.

“I have a grandson who is on the spectrum. He will never have to make that decision. If I didn’t think this bill protected him, I wouldn’t be supporting it,” she said. “Give people a choice. People should have a choice to be in control of their own bodies.”

The lobby effort was wrapped around an Assembly Health Committee hearing on the issue, which was standing room only.

Advocates for and against the measure lined the walls for the hearing, and opponents remain confident the measure is unlikely to be approved this year.

“I know we hold the votes,” said the Rev. Jason McGuire of New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms. “I pretty confident in that position. This is an effort to try to make a story where there isn’t one.”

McGuire pointed to the opposition to the bill which has not fallen on Republican and Democratic lines.

“This is one of those issues that’s really bipartisan,” he said. “They’re opposed to assisted suicide. We’re seeing people coming together, both Republicans and Democrats, they’re voicing their opposition.”

Report Examines CPV Lobbying Ahead Of Percoco Trial

From the Morning Memo:

A report being released Friday by the Public Accountability Initiative examines the money spent on the consulting and lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs by Competitive Power Ventures as the trial of a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo loomed.

The report highlights the money spent by CPV on lobbying and other public relations efforts as the trial of Joe Percoco approached last year.

The group’s survey ties the amount of money spent by CPV to the increased scrutiny of its power plant project in the Hudson Valley that played a key role in the case.

Percoco earlier this year was convicted of federal corruption charges that stemmed from efforts to secure economic development contracts in exchange for bribes and a low-show job for his wife.

“After the November 2016 indictment of Percoco, CPV’s state and federal lobbying efforts more than quadrupled,” the report found. “Whereas CPV spent $100,909 on lobbying in 2016, it spent $430,000 in 2017.”

The report also comes as Cuomo’s rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Cynthia Nixon, has made the project an issue in her campaign.

CPV in a statement blasted the report, calling it “the latest political stunt by those who want to ignore the facts and the law.”

“CPV has met and exceeded every state and federal standard to operate this plant and build the pipeline needed to supply it with natural gas, winning hard-fought battles against the Cuomo administration in court as a result,” said Tom Rumsey, the company’s vice president for external affairs.

“When the CPV Valley Energy Center is operational on our primary fuel, we will be one of the most efficient and environmentally sound power plants in the country. For New York, that equates to a reduction in carbon emissions of an estimated half a million tons per year while bolstering grid reliability and providing critical revenue into local governments.”

The report was also criticized by Mercury itself.

The firm’s co-chairman, former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, who was the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City in 2005, said in a statement, “This is such a reach, it’s ridiculous.”

The Percoco Connection – Final Report %5bfor SoP April 20 2018%5d by Nick Reisman on Scribd

NY Unemployment Stays Flat In March

New York’s unemployment stayed largely flat in March at 4.2 percent, with the state’s private-sector job count increasing by only 200.

“New York State’s economy continued to expand in March as we reached a new, all-time high private sector job count and remained at our lowest statewide unemployment rate since before the recession,” said Bohdan M. Wynnyk, Director of the New York State Department of Labor’s Division of Research and Statistics.

The unemployment rate nationally is slightly lower, 4.1 percent.

New York City’s jobless rate also remains unchanged at 4.2 percent.

The Department of Labor in its announcement touting the jobs numbers pointed to the 8.1 million private sector jobs in the state, which it said was an all-time high.

JCOPE: Lobbying Spending Falls By $2.6M In New York

Lobbying in New York remains an expensive business, with entities spending more than $240 million in 2017 to influence state and local governments.

But total lobbying spending declined slightly since 2016, with groups spending $2.6 million less in 2017, according to a report released Wednesday by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

JCOPE in 2016 and 2015 tracked $243 million in lobbying spending on issues before state and local governments.

As usual, the top lobbying organizations included health care, telecommunications and education, while relative newcomer Uber Technologies continued to flex its muscle in New York.

The top lobbying concern in New York last year was the Greater Hospital Association, which reported spending $2.8 million. It was followed by Uber Technologies, which spent $2.4 million and AARP, which spent $1.4 million. The United Teachers Federation spent nearly $1.4 million, the report found.

The top lobbying shop in New York is Kasirer, which reported $11.4 million in compensation, followed by Brown & Weinraub, PLLC at $11.1 million and Bolton St. Johns at $8.5 million.

The Post-Budget Session Begins Amid Uncertainty

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers return to Albany today for a post-budget legislative session in which there is one thing certain: Nothing is really certain at all.

Democrats could potentially gain control of the state Senate for the first time since losing power after a two-year stint in the majority between 2009 and 2010, assuming the two competing Democratic conferences can work together after being at odds for seven years.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing a primary challenge from actress and education advocate Cynthia Nixon, has been under increasing pressure to show he’s the true champion of the left, bringing him closer to his allies in organized labor, who have fled the Working Families Party.

In a way, these are insider-ish concerns. But how the next several weeks play out in Albany — the intersection of liberal activism coming into its own with the Nixon challenge, a Democratic state Senate and a governor fending off a primary bid like he’s never faced before — could have revelations on New York for years to come.

There’s still the matter of what can or cannot get done in Albany before the end of the session in June, but much of it is left up in the air due to the questions surrounding Senate control. Should Democrats win two open seats in the chamber on April 24 in special elections, the pressure will be on Sen. Simcha Felder to switch sides, giving the party a working majority.

Still, that’s a narrow working majority of one seat, making it difficult for Democrats to pass some of the more controversial measures on their to-do list, such as strengthening abortion rights.

Nevertheless, some lawmakers are hopeful that criminal justice provisions like cashless bail for non-violent offenders or early voting can pass this session.

Then there’s the question of how the Independent Democratic Conference, which is due to formally dissolve itself this week, will merge with the mainline Democratic conference in the state Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in an interview last week indicated she was planning for a smooth transition between the two conferences.

“Obviously I think it will be a transition period,” she said, “but I’m trying to really minimize upheaval. I think you’re going to see a whole lot of repositioning, there will be some, but not a whole lot. and we’re all there to serve the people of New York and I think New Yorkers are going to be better off with us together.”

After dropping his bid for the WFP’s endorsement and subsequently losing it to Nixon, Cuomo’s campaign lamented the “schism” in the WFP, while also insisting the Democratic Party in New York was unified.

“After nearly a decade of discord, we have a united Democratic Party and the governor is 100 percent focused on maintaining that unity to fight Trump in Washington, take back the House and win the state Senate,” said Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Abbey Fashour. “The schism between the progressive unions who founded the WFP and some of its member organizations is unfortunate, but in that divide the governor stands with the unions who have left the WFP and no longer feel it represents the interests of middle- and working-class New Yorkers.”